by Emily Miller
I live in Florida; where plants grow tall in the relentless sun and roots are shallow, nourished by daily rain. Oak trees flourish here and one grows in front of my parent’s home, big enough that it would take the joint effort of three adults to give it a proper hug.
There are two types of oak trees in this area: Live oaks and water oaks. They both grow to about 80 feet tall, host a variety of birds and animals in their sturdy branches, and provide more than enough shade with their leafy limbs. On the surface, it's hard to tell the difference, until a hurricane comes along.
Water oaks like the sun and take the rain for granted. Why grow deep roots when water is plentiful? They shoot up quickly and stand alone, tall and magnificent.
Live oaks grow slower and focus their energy on sending their roots deep into the ground.
A couple years ago I weathered Hurricane Irma at my parent's house. Being a mom of a newborn, I took Nyquil and slept through the worst of it. The next morning I walked out to a different world. Spanish moss, branches, limbs, and whole trees littered the ground. Water oak after water oak had toppled, crushing every home in their shade. My parent’s home was fine, the 300-year-old live oak had taken the brunt of the wind and barely lost its leaves.
Water oaks are the fastest-growing, shortest-lived oaks. Even if storms don’t come to tear them out by their shallow roots they have a tendency to die from the inside out. Beautiful and strong on the outside, hiding rot at their core.
Live oaks live for hundreds of years. They weather storms so well that architects use them as examples of how to build structures that survive hurricanes. Their roots are not just deep but they seek out the roots of other trees and entwine with them so that if a hurricane wants to take them out it has to take out the whole forest.
Have you ever seen a hero fall? I have.
There have been people in my life who have been truly inspiring. They seemed larger than life, doing so much good, looking so very godly. It was as if they were oak trees and people like me rested in the shade of their strength. They stood apart, tall and magnificent.
But storms always come.
Some of my heroes had rot in them for years. They looked great on the outside until a storm came along or the rot grew too big to hide. Wives were left, children abandoned, ministries splintered, and my heroes became sad jokes, toppled remains of the trees they used to be.
Other heroes weathered the storms, their roots in Christ were deep and they leaned heavily on fellow believers. Battered but standing, growing more and more beautiful as they continue to shade the souls that lean upon them. They will live forever.
I couldn’t tell the difference until the storms came.
I have rot in me. There’s sin in me that will hollow me out until I topple and lie, exposed and dead. My roots must grow deep; deep into Jesus, deeply nourished by His word, deeply held in place by you, my fellow Christians. When the storms come I want to be standing and helping you stand.
There is rot in you. You need deep roots. You can’t afford not to spend time with the Savior. Be deeply nourished by His word, be in close community with fellow Christians. I want you to stand when the storms come.
“...They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”